Saturday, July 2, 2011

Why I Have a Problem with Stagnant Churches.

I've never understood how a church can grow to the "average" size of around 250 and then close the doors. Too many churches out there are spending too much of their resources to only tend to those already in their midst and not enough effort in following the great commission.

Nowhere in the bible does it say we're to come together in small groups and insulate ourselves from the outer world. Yet, every community has church organizations that do just that.

I'm so passionate about this issue, that I actually have a book deal in the negotiation stages to cover this very subject. While I've only lain the groundwork for the book so far, every week or so I come across something new to add in, some fresh angle that further backs the point of view that churches were never meant to behave with a closed hand.

If your church isn't actively putting a vast effort into seeking and saving, then I submit to you that your church is dysfunctional.

Along those lines, is today's devotional from Pastor Bayless Conley.

The Vital Sign of Passion to Reach the Lost

One of the major signs that someone needs to be revived is a lack of concern for the lost. In David's psalm of repentance, Psalm 51:10-13, he says,

Create in me a clean heart, O God, and renew a steadfast spirit within me. Do not cast me away from Your presence, and do not take Your Holy Spirit from me. Restore to me the joy of Your salvation, and uphold me by Your generous Spirit. Then I will teach transgressors Your ways, and sinners shall be converted to You.

When David says, Renew a steadfast spirit in me…Restore to me the joy of Your salvation, he is saying, "God, revive me, restore me, renew me." One of the fruits we find in a heart that has been revived is a desire to see others converted. Then I will teach transgressors Your ways, and sinners shall be converted to You.

When a person's spiritual life wanes, there is very little thought and very little action aimed at reaching the lost. Yet, someone who has been revived and is spiritually healthy will be actively engaged in the evangelization of the lost.

Read carefully these words from Elton Trueblood, a Quaker scholar. He said, "Evangelism occurs when Christians are so ignited by their contact with Christ that they in turn set other fires. It is easy to determine when something is aflame. It ignites other material. Any fire that does not spread will eventually go out."

When you are spiritually revived, you will think about the spiritual state of the people that you rub shoulders with every day. It is inevitable that when your heart is revived and close to God, you will have a concern for the lost.

Do 'average size' churches, that don't seek growth simply think they've done enough? My evangelism professor spoke of a church that interviewed him to lead their church into a new era. He laid out his plans for reaching lost people and growing their church and in turn, they responded by telling him they wanted him to remain in his office during business hours so he could address the concerns of the existing congregation. They didn't have time to seek & save, they were too wrapped up in their own problems.

I'd submit that their problem was the inward focus. While introspection and healing are necessary, they should never be the end game. If they are, the game is over.

If this describes your church, I pray God will convict you to either effect change or remove your family and find a new place of worship that actively spreads the Word. God blessed us to be a blessing to others and his blessings are as numerous as the stars; so too should be the people we all seek to bless.

There are a few people we're close to who exist in churches such as the type I describe and they actively defend the insular behavior. These churches sit in large metro areas with hundreds of thousands of lost souls within a 30 minute drive, yet these churches are content to exist mainly for themselves and to worship God. All I can think of when I hear them talk is they've done what so many other churches have done and bought into a lie from the deceiver.

I remember reading once that faith is like an escalator, if you're not actively moving up, your heading down - there is no standing still.

Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, - Matthew 28:19

Jesus tells us to go forth and make disciples. He doesn't command us to go huddle in a building and sing Kumbayah while people lose their lives all around us.

...and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age. Matthew 28:20

"obey everything I have commanded you" means to go forth and make disciples. How much clearer does it need to be?

If you think you can't do it, you're listening to the lies of the enemy. If you think your church can't do it, the same applies. Once we accept Christ, we have the power of the Holy Spirit within us which is not bound by the enemy, unless we let it be so. Don't let it be.

I beg you, go forth and be fishers of men. God gives us so much and asks so little in return. How can we not obey?


  1. Amen brother, amen. I totally and completely agree with you wholeheartedly. That's the fight we are fighting now, but we are trying hard to create change. Our dilemma is not a church that is "unwilling", it is a church that has grown "old", so they're style is old, set in their ways, have been a part of the same church (some of them for 60 years), so it's hard for them to adjust to "young people". They assume that all will like it "their" way, and we are steadily working to try and open their eyes a little bit at a time, as when we've pushed to far too fast, they've balked completely. Very frustrating, but we've seen growth, maybe 5-6 people, but with an avg congregation of only about 30, that is huge. We've developed children's programs and youth programs. We once even played the guitar during worship, and in our "little" congregation, we had people simply leave.
    It's hard in the environment we are in, we love the people, they are truly an honest, conservative, hard working society, but due to the huge generational gap, it has led to a church that could see itself simply die off in the next ten to fifteen years, and we are desperately trying to change that...
    It's something that G and I often talk about, as it brings us to points of deep frustration, deep sadness at times, but we feel the need to PUUUSHH...whether they kick us out or not :0
    I miss being part of something "bigger". I miss leading people who actually worship, and don't just sit there and stare at you, I miss missions work in the community, I miss bible studies, I miss so many many things of a church that is truly alive in the spirit...Maybe this fight is worth the fight...we're hoping to see the light at the end of the tunnel. Only God can move this congregation, and we pray for revival all the time.
    Take care brother, and march on soldier. Love ya!

  2. Good thought provoking points mate!

    A few other thoughts:

    1) Methodology becomes theology...
    2) Discipleship is not properly implemented.
    3) Old people hang onto their 'ministry'.

  3. Oh also focusing on numbers and salvation decisions rather than disciples... Salvation decisions is not the 'end goal' but just the start of the process! It is also easier to get 'sideways' movement of people (people from other churches) than the unsaved!

    Better quit before I get too worked up.

  4. The discipling thing is a big key that it seems a lot completely neglect, even big churches we've seen. "Go forth and make disciples..." turns into "advertise to get people in the door..." or simply "make yourself at home..." :(

  5. Amen! Excellent post.

    I find one of my favorite clips from this year's Elephant Room to be very relevant to this:

    "The answer is BOTH! More Christians AND better Christians."

    We cannot neglect bringing people to Christ and seeing His kingdom number's increase. To that end, it can't be ALL about the numbers; we can't neglect the saved either!